Archive for January 2014

January 26, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

2014 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

For the Word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God.

"I appeal to you brothers, by the Name of the LORD Jesus Christ."

By The name of Jesus. The name of Jesus makes all the difference.

In the book of Acts, chapter 3, we read about an instance in which Peter and John had gone to the temple to pray, and as they were exiting the temple they happened upon a man who was begging there at the gate. The author tells us that he was crippled since birth. They didn't have any money to give so they gave him instead what they did have: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk" (Acts 3) The man got up and began leaping for joy. You see, The name of Jesus has power and authority. It has power, it has authority to command sin and sickness and even death. There is power and there is authority in the Name of Jesus. Great and wonderful things are done in the name of Jesus.

It is no accident then that as our text begins, it begins with a command that is and lets face it, a pretty tall order. As much as God is a god of power and authority, as much as our God is a god who can do great things, this one pretty much takes the cake. Paul writes: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Now, we have all heard about the miracles of Jesus - turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves and two fish, even raising the dead. All of those things are pretty spectacular, but this one would be huge. At least if he were talking to us. I don't have much experience with Corinthians to know just how stubborn and hard headed they could be, but German americans - a bunch of old dutchmen like us? United in the same mind and judgment? I don't think so.

Especially when you stop to consider exactly just what it is that Paul is commanding. We have all heard about unity. We have all had lessons on what it takes to get along with other people. These days we hear all kinds of discussions about diversity and tolerance and accepting people from other backgrounds and people who have different opinions from our own. We talk about tolerance and acceptance and even agreeing to disagree. We hear about unity and we assume Paul must be talking about that. But he isn't. Hear what he says. Be United in the same MIND and the same JUDGMENT.

Let me take a minute to explain those terms. Let me take a minute to explain what he is saying. Paul says be united in the same MIND. Vous is the greek term - it means all of your mind and your thinking. working from the same brain. The other word - gnomh - translated judgment. Your gnomh is the result of your vous. the result of your thinking, the opinions that you form because of the thoughts that you have. So here it is. Have the same thoughts, and then based on those thoughts have the same opinions. Does anybody hear Paul saying agree to disagree? Does anybody hear Paul saying respect other people's opinions? No! much than that, Paul is saying be the same. Have your thoughts, your judgments, your opinions, all be the same, united, as one.

Go back to that miracle. We might have better luck telling a lame man to get up and walk. But Paul gives this command, (and this is important) he gives this command in the Name of Jesus. And his command is that we be UNITED.

Be UNITED. says Paul. Be united. What is worth noting is that when Paul says "be united" he intends to discuss a thing that is made, that is done, that occurs and is accomplished by the power of the WORD of God. To be united is not something that we do, it is not something that we accomplish by ourselves, by our discussion, by our strength, by our own volition or will. To be united, to have the same mind and judgment as everyone else together, that is what God's Word does. God's Word takes things that are divided, confused, out of place, and God's Word puts those things in order. The WORD of GOD creates order where there is disorder and chaos.

Go back. All the way back to the very beginning. Genesis 1 says that the world was "formless and void" empty and a waste. and it was covered with darkness. Then came the Spirit of God that hovered over the face of the deep and The Lord spoke. The Word of The Lord entered into the darkness and into the emptiness and into the waste and it began to create order. It created light and it separated light and darkness. It created land and set boundaries on the land where the water was not allowed to go. It set times and seasons. It created lights that governed the night and the day. It make life to fill the newly given order. The study of science and mathematics is a celebration and examination of this God given, divinely created order. There was chaos. There was disorder. God gave his Word and God's Word established order. God's Word creates order on a cosmic, and universal scale.

God's Word also creates order in the world. God's Word sets limits and parameters for right and wrong. It is because of God's Word that we know that stealing is not ok, that murder is not ok, that adultery and lying are not ok. God's Word creates and protects these institutions and God's Word creates order.

God's Word also creates order in your heart. Sin gives us disordered hearts. It sets us at odds with each other. It creates and causes conflicts in our hearts. It causes stress and hurt and pain. Where we have sinned it causes fear. Where we have been sinned against it causes pain and confusion. Gods word heals the pain and sets right the confusion. It gives hope, it gives peace, it calms the chaos and it creates order. God's Word creates order.

God's Word creates order; sin disrupts that order. Sin fights against God's Word in our hearts, in our lives, in our community, in our world. Sin destroys God's order in the family through sins of adultery. Sin destroys God's order in our world through violence. Sin destroys God's order in our communities through lies and deceit. Sin destroys order in our churches and in the gathering of God's people in God's house around God's gifts.

But it happens so quietly and so subtlety. Doesn't it? Because it doesn't start out as sin. It starts out as something good. It starts out as something true, and God pleasing. This is true with almost all errors in the church. One thing, one small part of God's Word and God's truth is emphasized at the expense of the whole of God's truth. One little thing, even a good thing, becomes the main thing and even the only thing.

Consider the things that create disruption and disunity here among us. Consider the things that we are tempted to fight over and disagree about. There are different sides and different opinions. We come away with people who are not of the same mind and who are not of the same opinion. And what is remarkable is that no one is really wrong. The points we all make are true and right and good and they are things that we should lift up and emphasize and do. But what happens when those things become the main thing? When those things are emphasized at the expense of the others. What happens when one person holds on to one part of the church's mission and goal and says that it is the most important, while another person emphasizes a different point? What happens to the unity of thought and judgment? Of mind and opinion? Where does the unity go?

What happens when those points are emphasized at the expense of the main point. Paul says in our text that the main point is the Word of the Cross that is foolishness to the world. Paul says it is the Word of the Cross, because the cross is the salvation of those who believe.

And so God gives his Word. God gives his word that comes to us in our chaos and disorder and God's Word sets us back into order. It puts us back in place. God's Word affirms those things in us that are good. Concerns for the benefit of our congregation. But then God's Word also shows us where we have let these things, as good as they are, become the main thing at the expense of all the other things. God's Words shows us what is the main thing.

Paul tells that disordered bunch of Corinthians that Jesus sent him to preach the Gospel and that the Gospel, the cross of Jesus Christ is the main thing. That the death and resurrection of Jesus is the thing that draws us in and makes us one with one another. That the cross of Jesus Christ is that thing that creates us to be a community of faithful believers, that the cross of Jesus Christ is that thing that is our reason for gathering together, that the cross of Jesus Christ is our reason for our existing together as a church. Let everything else fall away, but let the Gospel of Jesus Christ remain. Because with the cross of Christ we have what matters, we have eternal life and salvation.

And the cross of Jesus gives to us such great freedom. The Cross of Jesus Christ enables us to lay all of our sins, all of our fears, all of our frustrations at the feet of Jesus.

What would happen if the worst were to occur? think about it, what is the thing that you most fear? You great grandfathers church and school closing on your watch? Mismanaging and squandering the heritage that you have received, that so many people worked so hard to build? What a horror? What a sin? What a shame? What if we gave that to Jesus? What if we laid that at his feet? At his cross? What if our failure to manage was given to him? What if our personal or congregational sins were laid at his feet? What if our sin was given to Jesus? What difference would that make?

Or what about the sins of those who have sinned against you? What if those sin that were committed against you were laid at the feet of Jesus? Were given to him? Were also laid on his cross? Jesus didn't just die for you sins. Remember? He died for this sins of the world. He died for the sins that were committed by other people against you. What if you gave those sins to Jesus? What if instead of holding on to those sins, replaying those sins, rehashing those sins, you gave them to Jesus? What if we truly lived as a community where the cross of Jesus was not emptied of its power? But where it was the power of God for the salvation of all who believed?

Dear friends in Christ, The Lord Jesus Christ has given to us his POWER. He has given to us the power to overcome those sins that we have committed, those sins that have destroyed and disordered this community. He has joined us to him in his death by the power of his baptism. We have sinned. We have failed in so many ways and on so many levels but Jesus has died for those sins. let us lay them at the feet of Jesus and be ordered, be united in thought and mind, in heart and opinion.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


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January 14, 2014 @ 10:36 am

Baptism of Our Lord


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